REVIEW: A three-win sweep in their home group saw Luxembourg through, while a narrow win against Georgia propelled Cyprus to the next phase
Luxembourg and Cyprus progress in EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers
Luxembourg and Cyprus are the two teams that earned safe passage to the next phase of the EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers, after winning their groups this weekend.
Playing at home, Luxembourg never had any trouble against Great Britain, Bulgaria and Malta, as they eased to three wins, with a goal difference of +36.
In the other group, Cyprus and Georgia disposed of Malta and Azerbaijan, but the Cypriot side looked better in the decider, earning a 25:24 win that powered them to the top of the group.
Ireland vs Bulgaria 28:35 (13:17)
Ireland were still hunting for their first ever win in the EHF EURO Qualifiers, but after two losses against Luxembourg and Great Britain, chances were that Bulgaria were going to pick up their second win in the group.
And that was precisely what happened. The Bulgarian side soon found into their stride and were better, avenging the painful defeat against Luxembourg on Saturday.
With their depth tested in the previous two games, Ireland had a good start but faded as the game progressed.
A 7:2 run for the Bulgarian side was the turning point of the game, giving Ireland a mountain to climb at the break. There was nothing the Irish could do in the second half, as Bulgaria proved too strong to take a 35:28 win.
The Irish remained winless, while Bulgaria clinched the second spot in the group, with two wins and a defeat.
Luxembourg vs Great Britain 29:19 (15:6)
Two wins that helped Luxembourg power to a +26 goal difference after the first two games meant that the hosts could also afford a draw against Great Britain.
But the British side, who won their first game in the EHF EURO Qualifiers after nine years against Ireland on Saturday, did not stand a chance against a hungry opponent.
A strong start for the hosts was enough to separate the two sides, as Luxembourg jumped to a 15:6 lead at the break.
Nothing much changed in the second half. Luxembourg gave chances to all their players, but still won comfortably, 29:19.
Luxembourg won the group with three consecutive wins, while Great Britain finished third, with two points.
Cyprus vs Georgia 25:24 (14:12)
Djordje Rasic, Georgia’s coach, identified Cyprus as their main rival for the first place in the group and the first two games confirmed his assertion.
Everything was at stake, with Georgia knowing a draw or a win would see them through thanks to a greater goal difference after the first two matches.
A stronger start saw Georgia dictating the rhythm, but Cyprus remained in close contention. However, a surprising 3:0 run for Cyprus saw them take a surprising 10:8 lead, as Georgia quickly called a time-out.
Georgia were unable to deploy a quick fix, but they went into the break just two goals down and fought back to a two-goal lead with 15 minutes to go.
With an instrumental Julios Argyrou in superb form, scoring nine times, Cyprus came back with a 5:0 run to spoil Georgia’s dream and secure a 25:24 win.
Azerbaijan vs Malta 27:24 (16:11)
Hosting the EHF EURO Qualifiers group was already a success for Malta, yet the results did not fall into place for the Maltese side. The hosts conceded 86 goals in the first two games, while scoring 41.
The game against Azerbaijan was the only chance for the hosts to save face, but the Azeri side was still too strong for them.
There was no moment in which the Maltese side led the game in the first half, as their opponents jumped to a 16:11 lead at the break.
But everything changed in the second part. Motivated to leave the court with a win, Malta came back and even took a brief lead, 19:18, after a 4:0 run.
However, there was not much Malta could do in the end, as their attack faltered. The 27:24 win for Azerbaijan means they finished third in the group, after previously losing to Georgia and Cyprus.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/jh
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